A new trend on social media websites, namely Facebook, has seen pages and groups posting about activity from police radio channels.
In the New Zealand region of Manawatū, at least four Facebook pages have been following these channels and posting updates, along with details of events in real-time such as car chases, domestic violence, assaults, and drunk-driving. These pages share more than 50,000 followers.
While this trend is surely not limited to New Zealand alone, with many similar examples of pages and groups for specific cities and regions in the United States. Police Central District Command Centre has contacted the pages via private message explaining what they are legally able to publish.
Area Commander Ross Grantham is concerned victims won't report crimes out of fear of their identity getting exposed on such online forums. “While it's not illegal to listen to police radio through a scanner, it is illegal to act … [and] reproducing names, addresses and post registration numbers of vehicles breaches privacy, which is an offense.” He also added that this type of information could interfere with a fair trial. “It's so easy to post this online and feel nothing because you're not actually dealing with the person. It is really irresponsible.”
One page has already stopped posting after being made aware of their “privacy breaching” behavior. An admin of another page with 10,000 followers responded to a police complaint saying they are a bridge between the community and the police. They wanted to share with the public what police were doing to keep communities safe. The admin also declined to stop posting.. “For me, personally, I prefer to be informed and keep the page updated.” Another page, with 39,000 followers, has decided to comply with the law.
Grantham stated that they (the police) would “unhappily live” with these pages due to public interest in them, but they will ask Facebook to shut them down if they continue to identity suspects or victims.